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Poker News | World Poker News

EPT Russia Stop Moves to Ukraine After Government Closes Casinos

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The news was heard in gambling communities around the world, but it echoed in the poker community as PokerStars.com prepared to take its European Poker Tour into Moscow for its first ever EPT Russia stop. Russia was shutting down its casinos via orders from the Kremlin, and the harsh news was met by surprise as the gaming industry, specifically poker, had been growing at a phenomenal rate over the past few years.

When the news came of the shutdown, PokerStars released no statement right away, as tour organizers attempted to assess the seriousness of the situation and the original decision to host its first tournament of Season 6 in Moscow. Ultimately, weeks after the July 1 deadline for Russia’s casinos to close their doors, PokerStars released a statement to acknowledge that the EPT event was moved to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

The dates of the tournament changed little, as the original start date of August 17 was changed to the 18th, but the event will still run through August 23, and the buy-in will now be in Euros instead of Rubles - 5,000 Euros to be exact. Kiev Sports Palace will host the tournament, which is now called the EPT Kiev Sports Poker Championship, and it will be regulated by the Ukrainian Ministry of Youth, Family and Sport in coordination with the Ukrainian Poker Federation. The tournament looks to be the largest poker event ever held in the Ukraine.

A statement to players accompanied the announcement from PokerStars: “Euro Poker Tour Ltd. sincerely apologises to all players who were intending to attend the Moscow event, but unfortunately these circumstances were beyond our control. Players are encouraged to consider attending the Ukrainian event instead, and to participate in the opening of the EPT’s sixth season.”

In addition, players were advised that any awarded packages from the PokerStars website would be honored in Kiev, but players could also choose to accept a credit for another future EPT event or request the cash equivalent value of the package.

The crackdown on Russian casinos was not a complete surprise, as Vladimir Putin introduced plans in 2006 to shut down casinos around the country, though at the time it was thought to be somewhat of a rogue move, and Putin’s views were not shared by many in Russia. But Putin claimed that the industry was severely under regulated, and as opposed to pushing for more regulation, he felt the best option was to close them and revoke their licenses. Casinos have done their best to put off the closures, which worked until Russian President Dmitri Medvedev agreed with the decision and ordered the shutdown to be effective July 1, 2009. The only option offered to casino operators was to relocate their facilities to one of four remote regions of Russia, including Siberia.

In all, more than 40 casinos have been closed upon the government’s orders, and according to the gambling industry, more than 400,000 people have lost their jobs. While casino executives continue to discuss options with the government, such as the possible legality of poker-only clubs that will be privately owned, the vast majority of the casino industry has been put out of business indefinitely.

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